Monthly Archives: July 2010

My job is to make you jealous

Here’s a few photos from the last week or so:

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Chisago Lakes Triathlon 2010- Race Report

I decided to race Chisago again this year, somewhat on a whim.

My race schedule originally had penciled in my first ultra, the Voyageur 50mile trail race, near Duluth, Minnesota for this weekend, but my lack of long runs at mid-June and early season illness had me grabbing for the eraser. Instead of running myself into the ground, I decided to pull out of Voyageur and look for something else. Luckily, it was the exact same time that my teammate, Sharpie, emailed me asking what I thought about the Chisago Tri. She wanted to know if it would be worth it for her to travel from Colorado to race it, and with the idea that she’d be heading to the midwest, I decided to put my chips in the triathlon bucket instead.

The more I thought about it, the happier I was with my decision. The race last year was flat, fast, and a great primer for the FullRev at Cedar Point in September. I could test out my new 54 in a race setting, master my nutrition, and get in another long race on my new-ish bike. So with some back-and-forth with Sharpie, I signed up (race week registration was only ~$115 after fees) and reserved a room at the same seedy motel I stayed at last year.

I wanted to get to the Twin Cities area by noon so I could meet my friend Leiah for lunch, but I didn’t end up leaving Houghton until a little after 9, and so I stopped and had lunch at a diner in Spooner. Unfortunately, I was a little worried that the hashbrowns were not 100% gluten free, so I scraped around on the plate, ate four pieces of bacon, and headed back on my way. I got to TC a little after 2, and Leiah was at the Red Bull Flugtag, so instead of meeting her for lunch, I headed over there for dinner of kabobs on the grill. In the interim, I watched an episode of Scrubs (downtime) and ran a few miles to get the junk out.

My pre-race meal was light and full of veggies, but I was careful not to eat too much. I had caprese salad and a few skewers worth of peppers, tomatoes, and mushrooms, and then picked up some ice cream on the way back to the motel. I was on the hunt for some Panda Puffs, but I was hardpressed to find them, so I grabbed a box of Smore’ables and decided to go with those and a packet of almond butter for breakfast. I tried to get into bed by 10pm CST, but by the time I had everything laid out and packed up, it was after 1030. I set the alarms for 445am and woke up every few hours thinking my three alarms weren’t working. Ughhh…

Smore’ables were a good breakfast, and I wanted to keep eating them because they tasted so good. I held back though, packed up my stuff and filled my aero bottle with water, 2 tablets of Kola Nuun, and EFS (fruit punch). I noticed that I only brought one of the two straws (daaaang) and couldn’t do anything about it then, so I filled up the largest volume of the two compartment system and headed to the race.

I didn’t ask to be in the elite wave, but since I entered my time from last year’s race, they squeaked me in to wave 2. It was nice, I had a great spot in transition and a clear path to my bike for both transitions.

Pre-Race Transition

I saw my teammate before the race, and a friend from college who started racing triathlon when he started graduate school in Illinois. I felt relaxed, carefree, and I tried to not have any “must do” expectations. Being placed in wave 2 meant that I got to head out first, and they bumped our race time up because of the delay on the first wave. I thought the swim would again be a little short this year, but I couldn’t see that farthest two buoys and by the time I made it around the last one I felt the distance. It’s amazing how slow time goes when I am swimming, how a half hour in the water feels like an hour on the bike. I found a set of feet, then lost them. Found feet. They were going too slow, so I moved on. Found another set, but they were going to zig-zagged. Eventually I was just swimming by myself. The waves behind me started to catch up, and I felt like I was swimming zig-zagged too. Eventually I got to shore in what felt like an hour, but my watch said 36:40. Nice.

Swim: 37:13, 1:55/100m pace

T1 was a little slower than I wanted, mostly because I couldn’t get my wetsuit off my timing chip. I was glad that I had safety pinned the chip on, but damn was I pissed when my wetsuit wouldn’t roll over it. I yanked and yanked and eventually got it free. Slipped into the shoes and helmet, and ran out.

T1: 1:29

It wasn’t until I started on the bike that I noticed that A) the compartment I filled with fluid on my aero bottle was not the compartment that the straw was in and B) the straw holes were different sizes between the two, and I just so happened to have the larger diameter straw with me. So I had to stick the straw inside the bottle and get onto my pursuit bars with my face right next to my bars in order to drink. That was pretty crappy. So anytime I wanted to take a drink, my neck would crane downward and I felt like at any moment I would hit a bump and poke my eye out with the huge ass straw. Not only that, but I could only get a few sips at a time, which made my usual “drink as much as you want to on the bike” plan go out the window.

About five miles in, I was getting caught by some packs. Girls hugging other girls’ wheels. Men zipping by at mach 3. I realized most of them were from the sprint race, and at the sprint turnoff, even though it was fairly obvious, I was a little confused and almost turned the wrong way because so many of the athletes were going that way. Once the sprinters turned off, I tried to get into a rhythm, but I couldn’t knock the woman who was riding by me when a guy would go past only to slow down on the slight inclines. Eventually, I thought I dropped her, because I put the hammer down for about three miles. But then I got to an incline, and wanted to save my legs. I tried to get into my smaller chain ring, and I felt all my power disappear. I dropped my chain. No. no no no. Everyone went zipping past me, one guy asked if I needed help, but I was able to throw it back on quickly. Stopping on the uphill didn’t help, though, but I caught back up to drafter-girl by the end of it and cruised on by.

I was on my own for a while. I was afraid of dropping my chain again, so I tried to stay in the 54 as much as I could. In fact, so much so that at one point I was hammering so hard up a hill that I thought I might snap my chain. Ugh. Ok, just downshift, even if you have to stop and fix the chain, it will still probably be faster than this! Transition was smooth.

The bumps started getting to me too. Every ten feet, the concrete was cracked every ten feet or so, and every crack was just wide enough to send me jarring forward and backward. There were dozens of miles of cracks. Bump bump bump, and soon I noticed that my right elbow pad was moving. Soon, my elbow pad was no longer supporting my weight, and I was supporting the weight of my body through my shoulders instead of my elbows. I wasn’t sipping on my EFS as often as I wanted to be, and I was thirsty but I was out of water. And I was alone, so I was losing focus fast. This sucks, I thought. Maybe I should just stop now, maybe these are signs I shouldn’t be racing today. My legs felt like lead and I was scared about the run. How can I run fast after staying in my 54 on all these hills? I’m going to have to run fast if I want to maintain any sort of respect, because this bike split sure as heck isn’t going to be my proudest triathlon moment. I was feeling sorry for myself.

But then I rethought that idea.

These kinds of things have never happened to me before in a race. Races, for me, have always been practically flawless. My nutrition has always been spot-on. My fit has always been great. I’ve never had a flat, dropped a chain, or anything like that. I’ve always felt good, strong, fluid. And I was feeling good, too, just a little beat up. So what if I was having issues? So what if I was stupid and didn’t check my bottle beforehand? So what if the new chain ring, for the first time, dropped my chain in a race? These are things that I experienced now, the hard way, in race where it matters. But these minor little set backs were not enough to ruin my day. Heck no. Get tough, I told myself. Just deal with it. And don’t let it happen again.

So I cranked on. I hammered the downhills and calculated my time. Ok, just keep this pace, and you’ll be where you need to be. I was shooting for 21.5mph average, but that was for last year’s course, which was flat as a pancake.  This year’s course was not. After re-evaluating the course and catastrophes, I decided that I wanted to be under 2:45. I was starting to bonk, and then I rallied home around mile 49, when a group passed me. It sort of woke me up. And fired me up, too, because Drafter-girl was back and hugging the wheel of another drafter guy. Drafter guy was doing all sorts of stupid things, like passing on the right, blocking me in, speeding up to get by me only to slow down once he was there. He wouldn’t let go of the guy’s wheel in front of him (a Peace Coffee racer who I’d see later on the run). I took a mental note of Drafter Guy’s number, and I got around him and the drafter pack he was with. Peace Coffee racer let me squeak ahead of him because he noticed I was boxed in, and he kept trying to drop the drafters but to no avail. No way in heck was I going to let them draft off me… but then the drafters finally overtook me and rode the peleton all the way back to transition. In hindsight, since there were no penalties given, I could have just squeaked in behind these packs and dropped my time a good 5-10 minutes, but that is something I would have had to live with, knowing, and I am too proud (which is probably a fault under these circumstances).

Bike: 2:44:33, 20.4 mph pace

T2 was much faster. In and out, perfect transition spot and flawless transition. I didn’t need anything, just my Fastwitches, number and visor. Off I went.

T2: 54.5 seconds

I was a little pissed about the bike, because my bike was my best leg in triathlon last year, and I was certainly not representing. But I think the resurgence of people toward the end of the bike made my head go a little fuzzy. The mechanical, the aerobars, the hydration issues- It was all water under the bridge. I had my strength ahead of me, the leg of the race that I’ve been working on this season.

The run started great. I felt great. I tried to hold back a little because 13.1 miles is a long way to go. So I sipped some EFS liquid shot that I still had in my jersey and settled into a rhythm. I heard someone talking incessantly behind me, and I wanted to yell “Just shut up and run harder!” but then I reconsidered. Run your race, I’d tell myself. Be smart. Eventually a guy left his chatterbox and passed me, but I stayed focused on keeping consistent and fluid. I ended up getting matched by another guy, who settled into the pace with me. I noticed he was the same guy I saw on the bike, the draft dodger in the Peace Coffee kit. I was happy to see him, and we settled into a nice stride together. His Garmin beeped every mile, but I didn’t ask about our pace and just hit my lap button when I crossed the race marked miles. We ticked away the miles, and he confessed that he was shooting for 7:50s. Although that was slower than I knew I wanted to go, I held my ground and didn’t let him influence my pace.

The miles cranked by, and when I got to around mile 2 I saw the men’s leader, Dave Thompson. I ran through aid stations, I didn’t do any run-walking, and I would drop my Peace Coffee buddy because of that, only for him to catch back up after a few hundred yards. I knew the course, and I knew what to expect; it was almost as if I had ran it the weekend before, it felt so familiar. I stayed calm and tried to use mile 5 as a rest mile, but that didn’t work. I saw the women’s leader when I got to around mile 5 or so, and my teammate, Carole, when I got a little further. I gave her a high five and she gave me a huge adrenaline boost. I hit the gravel loop and focused on my form. I felt light, almost too good, considering how I didn’t feel quite so awesome on the bike. I kept it steady and eventually lost my running friend. I kept picking people off, wondering when (and if) I was going to blow up, but I kept refilling my flask and sipping on water. I wanted a pop so bad by the time I hit mile 8. I could taste the sugar, the carbonation, I wanted it. And truthfully, knowing that there might be some at the finish helped get me there. I put my head down and noticed a familiar number ahead of me, a tall, stocky guy run-walking his way in. Same number as Drafter Guy. I blew by him without saying a word (usually I at least mumble a “good job” or a “hiya hiya yip yip yip”). I passed my friend Owen on his way out and I new I was close. Weaving through the neighborhoods, I could hear the announcer over the speakers and I just upped the anty. I pushed it, all the way in, feeling good and strong. I found another gear. I didn’t even feel like collapsing at the finish, which probably meant that I didn’t go hard enough, but I was happy with my time (sub 5hrs) and knew it was a great effort (only six minutes slower than last year). Considering the bike course was accurate distance (last year my bike computer had it at 54.5miles), and was more challenging as well (last year = flat as), and that the swim course was likely more accurate at this year’s race, I’ll take it!

My splits:
1- 7:10, 2- 6:59, 3- 7:35, 4- 7:32, 5- 7:33, 6- 7:11, 7- 7:19, 8- 6:57, 9- 7:22, 10- 7:28, 11- 7:20, 12- 7:20, 13- 6:51

Run: 1:34, 3rd fastest run of the day

Finish time: 4:58
1st AG, 12th overall.

My friend Leiah showed up when I finished and we hung out and chatted while I waited for the awards. It’s always nice to be able to see friends when I travel to races! It’s become somewhat of a habit for me to have reunions with friends at races, but I hope they don’t mind, because just as much as I loooove to race, I absolutely LOVE to see and visit with my friends 🙂

Carole ended up finishing 5th, which was in the money, and her friend Jackie won the whole shebang (an age group triathlete that was in the Top 10 at IMStGeorge this year).

I can’t believe how cool it was to have Carole there. Having traveled all the way to Minnesota from Colorado, for what I thought of (at least last year) as a podunk race, was really rad. To have another green machine out there with me on the course was motivating and I truly believe it helped me find another gear on the run. And, with two Trakkers athletes on the podium, I’d say we had a pretty damn good day!

I thought I would inevitably hit disaster with a bonk because of the stupid mistake with the aero bottle, but I never did. The EFS and Nuun worked great in keeping me balanced and tuned. And, yes, they did taste great together. There’s something so rewarding about a slightly-fizzy sports drink when I’m out riding in the heat.

My neck, on the other hand, is not impressed with my poor decision to not double check my bottle before leaving home. I feel like someone put a vice grip around my scapula. Doh.

Things I've learned in grad school

Ohh, the places you’ll go. Or in my case, come back to. I got my bachelor’s degree from Michigan Tech in 2005, left for a few years to get my master’s in Montana, and then came back. Why? Because I love the UP. I am stoked about my advisor’s research. and I want to pursue a career in academia.

Getting your doctorate isn’t always just lab work and classes, at least not in engineering. It is a lot more than that. I’d like to think, at least for some, its really a coming of age tale. “When I was getting my PhD, I did all sorts of things that really made me grow as a person…”

Of course, I haven’t received my doctorate yet. But while all this is still fresh in my brain (somedays my brain is more fresh than others), I’d like to share with you what I’ve learned over the last X-number of years.

Unemployment vs. Graduate Stipends; 8/21/2009

Graduate school is a time in life where your earnings far outweigh the incredible things you do. Wait, scratch that! It’s the complete opposite. Unless you have some awesome fellowship like NSF GRFP or go to a university sponsored with IGERT funding (or have an endowed advisor that can give you lots-o-money), you can make enough … to scrape by. And even with a fellowship like that, $30,000 a year in some places isn’t a whole lot of money to get by (San Francisco has a cost of living 53% greater than Minneapolis [1]).

On the flip side, some schools have fairly high graduate student stipends (graduate students at Harvard make an average of $31,700/year and Princeton sits at $29,300 [2]). At Michigan Tech (my school), the minimum graduate student stipend for someone with their master’s degree (and after passing all qualifying exams and their proposal defense) is a little under $19,000 [3]. By any stretch of the imagination, <$20K a year is not really living in the comfort zone, which is why it always amazes me that some graduate students can juggle having a family, and having kids, and getting their PhD. My friend Matt, a fellow grad student with me, just had his first child this year. Kudos to him, and those of you out there that are so gifted to be able to balance life, work, and family. That being said, I supplement my income with student loans that help me have more breathing room (and help me enjoy some things away from school as well, including sports and healthy food).

Anyway, I digress: having no money– that is a definite downside to grad school. Why downgrade to making less than 20K a year when you know (at least as an engineer) you could get a job that pays $50,000 right out of the gate? I know as an undergrad, at least when I was a freshman/sophomore, I was looking forward to getting my degree and getting an engineering job. That’s what I was told: engineering degree = lots of money. Seems logical to choose such a profession. But I changed my mind. All of a sudden, it wasn’t all about the money anymore. When I told my dad (as a senior undergrad) that I wanted to go to grad school, he couldn’t figure out why. Spend more money on school, and for why exactly? Logical questions that needed answers.

OK, so you don’t make any money. In a similar train of thought: It’s interesting to analyze the type of people that come to grad school. Some are very ambitious, hoping to seek an advanced degree in order to advance their field of study, to teach others what they know, or to do better for their family. Some come to grad school because there just isn’t anything else to do. Take the following comic for example:

Piled Higher and Deeper: Enrollment vs Unemployment Rate, 10/1/08

Yes, I know. It’s a comic. But its based on actual data from the National Science Foundation and the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The comic strip- Piled Higher and Deeper, is written by Jorge Cham, a mechanical engineer turned instructor who now travels and writes comics and helps others with low self esteem (ahem) grad students come to terms with the triumphs and tribulations of grad school. Interestingly enough, I am seeing more folks changing gears and going from industry back into academia, especially around the time of the economic fall out. It’s more difficult, because the graduate student pool is expanding, to secure graduate funding and support such as research and teaching assistantships. I suppose it comes down to ‘what else are we going to do’ but go back to school, when the job market is tough and employers are looking more and more for higher-ed employees. Anyway, it’s interesting. I’ll leave it at that.

Piled Higher and Deeper: Core Principles in Research 10/12/09

Graduate student life is not all that bad. Seriously. It’s one of only a few times in life where you can make-your-own-schedule, kind of. Some advisors require their students to stick to a 9-5 schedule, but for the most part it is generally accepted that, so long as you can get the work done, you can come and go when you please. Depending on culture, teaching responsibilities, and social life, I have seen other grad students come and go from my building at all hours of the day. Yes, there have been times when I have been there at practically all hours of the day (including the 8am-3am shift, or the 4am run to check on an experiment). As an undergrad, I had never pulled an ‘all nighter.’ But as a graduate student, things are different.  I mean, my life depends on these experiments. I literally have gone to bed at 9pm, set my alarm for 1am, and went back into work.

As a grad student, I’ve received tests back without grades on them. I’ve learned how to say “I don’t know” as eloquently as possible (I’m sure you’ve heard: “That’s an excellent question and its something we should consider for future investigations“- right?). I’ve learned how to bull..logna my way through a difficult question or two.

I am also learning new stuff every day, whether it pertains directly to my research or not. I’ve learned the ins and outs of all sorts of things, from optimizing quantitative PCR to getting a facility up and running. I’m learning that some situations are less fair than others, and that it’s not really worth arguing or getting upset over (and to just get the job done). Sometimes, all I want to say is: “That is not my job.” Sometimes, I do say that. Quietly and to myself (or my cat). Because even if it isn’t your job, it’s probably something that needs to get done in order to do your job, so it really could be your job, so just do it and shut up. I usually end up stepping back and saying; “That is my job. Being a grad student means anything could be your job.” Need something machined? Learn how to use a mill. Need to figure out your statistical power? Find a stats book. No one is going to hold your hand, at least- no one should have to. Because in reality, being a graduate student means being a sponge, soaking in all that you can for the limited amount of time you have. Being independent. Learning how to be a primary investigator, with the guidance and advising of your P.I., of course.

In the end, I am grateful for being given the opportunity to learn and follow and interact. I’ve taken some really cool courses. I have sat in on some really interesting talks. I have attended conferences where faculty from all over the world would stop and chat with me about my research. In a world so big, you learn in grad school just how tightly-knit any one area of science really is. I get excited when I find a journal paper that touches on my research hypotheses, and I am critical about the research I review. And I don’t care that I will have over $30K in loans to repay when I am done with school (the longer you’re in school, the longer the time period before you have to pay them back! OK, maybe don’t follow my lead on that one…)

Piled Higher and Deeper: Brain on a Stick, 1/26/09

Thanks to Piled Higher and Deeper for letting me share their comics in this post! For more hilarity (and some learning experiences), check out PhD Comics here.

1. Payscale.com Cost of Living calculator: http://www.payscale.com/cost-of-living-calculator
2. Glassdoor.com, See what employees are saying. Online search database for company salaries, reviews, and interviews.
3. Michigan Technological University, Minimum Stipend Levels

Three times fast

I just bought three pairs of shoes.

Now before you go all willy-nilly about “Oh how can she spend so much money on shoes when she’s a poor lil’ graduate student who always complains about not having any money?” Well, first: I don’t have any money. Second: I find the deals. Third: I do NOT compromise when it comes to running shoes. When my old ones are hitting retirement, I’ve got new ones on deck.

See that? Vegan isn't just a diet anymore.

I’ve never owned a pair of the Saucony Originals. I usually turn my retired trainers into my every-day shoe, and since I didn’t quite fit the mold for the ProGrid Omnis, they’ve been my around-the-lab shoe. But I feel kinda silly sometimes wearing running shoes to the office. And since I can’t wear Chacos (open-toed shoes), I thought I would check out the Originals. These babies were only $40 on saucony‘s website. They are Vegan Jazz Low Pros, and they are rad. Even with two sets of laces, these are totally granola-shoes, and they feel like slippers. I couldn’t resist.

My other two pairs? Training and racing shoes, of course. I’m stickin’ with my ProGrid Guide 3s, because they have just the right amount of support without being too pushy, and they are fairly lightweight. And my new marathon racer? I’m going to try out the Tangents. The Fastwitch 3s and 4s, which I’ve been racing in all summer, are blazing fast, but I am worried that I’ll fall apart around mile 21 like I did last year at the Columbus Marathon. So, I’m going with a little more support but sticking to a lightweight trainer. I’ll get a few MP runs in them before race day, of course.

Oh, yeah- and by buying a pair of shoes, I got 20% off apparel. So I couldn’t help buying a new pair of running shorts, too.

Lady Gaga inspired by…

James Joyce?

OMG WTF DB!

Let me preface this post by stating:

#1: I am very super emphatically excited to be a bridesmaid in my friend, Katie’s, wedding. Not only do I get to see her (I haven’t seen her since I ran Whidbey in 2008), but I get to see all sorts of my Montanan collegemates!

#2: I absolutely love Katie and Rob’s wedding colors and I got to pick out my own style of dress! EXCITE!

Now, the bad news:

I have a huge side boob! The pleats somehow missed getting pleated, and the dress is frilly where it shouldn’t be. I am not a master-craftwoman at using the iron, either (do we even have an iron?). I guess I should have it steamed? Dry-cleaned? Altered? Something?

My boobs are not that big!!!! And I don’t want them to give that illusion! HELP!

At least the dress came early (it wasn’t supposed to be here until August 1st) and I have time to figure out how to pleat it juuuust right.

As a side note, I am usually a size 4, but my behemoth lungs take up a bit more real estate (the price you pay for a larger VO2max I suppose). One consequence of this: Dresses are usually tight around the rib cage (and roomy in the boob area). I bought this dress in a size 6, and its a little … constricting. Hopefully come wedding day I can fit into it, because I doubt any seamstress can take it out.

Shake it up

or: Shake and bake.

or: Shake it like a Polaroid pick-chaaah.

or: I’m shaking things up a bit.

I was supposed to do my first (real) ultra this weekend.

I was supposed to train with long runs (think- 6-7hours) and lots of food and lots of rest.

I was supposed to step it up.

But I didn’t.

Maybe I shouldn’t say it like that. No one was forcing me to run the Voyageur 50mile on the Superior Hiking Trail. No one twisted my arm to register online and mail in the check. I did it on my own.

And I’m not really stepping aside, I’m still stepping up. I am just stepping up a different ladder.

There is a big difference in focusing on triathlon and focusing on ultra running. It’s true that cycling can help my endurance, and that cycling and swimming offer a great break from the impact of running but maintain my cardiovascular fitness.

But if I want to be good at triathlon, I need to focus on triathlon.

And I’ve been making excuses to not focus on triathlon. I was sick with some sort of China Funk/Whooping Cough/UP Death Flu in May, right after Rev3 Knox, and pulled out of the American Triple T. And I was recovering and traveling and recovering in June. and I was wedding-ing and traveling and sleeping it off in July.

And I stopped moving for a day and faced it: I am not ready for this type of 50 miler. The Superior Hiking Trail is hard. Rocky. Hilly. Unforgiving. And I have been training on roads, snowmobile trails, and two-wheeled machines. So I threw in the towel on my first ultra and reeled in another beast: Chisago Lake Tri.

I did this race last year, and had a blast. It’s a short drive (6hrs) and I know the course. It’s a fairly big race (1000 athletes?) and a fast course. Its competitive but not too competitive, and I have a benchmark. Plus, the bike course is flat, so it will be a great tune-up for the Full Rev at Cedar Point.

And I am trying something new. I am not going to focus on my previous best time or try to beat my swim or my bike or my run time (or all three). I am going to go into it with the same mentality as I did last year, just to try and race the race, do the best I can do on that day, and hope for the best race I can give. I am going to test my ability to let all things go and not actually hold something in the back of my head like: “Why are you just NOW getting on the bike when last year you were out of the water in 34 minutes?” or “This pace isn’t going to get you off the bike in 2.5hours like laaast year.”

Instead, I am going to ask myself questions, like:

“Are you having fun?”

And if the answer is no, I am going to shake it up some more. Carole will be there, too, so maybe I can moon her. Maybe that will be my goal…

Fresh tastes of summer

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: I love the UP.

Let me preface this by saying that I don’t think I could ever live for an extended period of time in a place that doesn’t have four seasons. I also really love the fruit and wildlife of the temperate areas, where several weeks out of the year include foraging for fresh berries and eating more than you throw in your bucket for later.

I am blessed to have a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) from a local farmer. He has somehow acquired the green thumbs that I obviously do not have. Along with his CSA partners (like me!), he sells his pickins’ to local markets. Marg even had some of his spinach and mixed greens for her wedding dinner. Every week, I get a bag or three of vegetables in my cooler, ready to eat (after I rinse them off in my greens spinner, of course). Last year, the weather was poor for growing and I ate my lifetime supply of spinach (or so I thought at the time). This year, the sun and rain ratio must be superb, because I’ve been eating beans and peas and courgettes to my big heart’s content.

The best thing about eating fresh in a UP fashion is the availability of these great foods. Sure, they are seasonal. Don’t expect to find good quality strawberries at the market in March (because they have to travel how far?!). But during the summer months, you can either pay $5 for a pint of fresh raspberries (handpicked, of course, at the roadside stand), or you can go exploring in the woods and find your own. The blueberry bushes are everywhere, and the thimbleberries are beginning to turn as red as rubies. Buy a jar of thimbleberry jam from a jam pot up here, and you’d second guess their value as jewels themselves.

So when the growing season is here, I dive right in. Sure, I still spend head to the grocery store, but bypass the produce aisles and shoot straight for the frozen meats and gluten free grains. I even get  eggs from a local farm for a few bucks a dozen.

Here’s a little taste (from a visual perspective) of the scrumptious UP:

wild blueberries

fresh picked raspberries from my CSA

Here’s one of the easiests recipes that I used, inspired by Marg’s bridal gathering at The Tea Room in Houghton:

Veggie Salad

5 courgettes (small ones)
4 carrots
1 pickling cuke
2 roma tomatoes
1/2 cup Italian dressing (I use Kraft’s Tuscan Italian)

Chop/slice vegetables into 1/4in thick slices. Place into bowl. Toss with dressing. Add 1 can of garbonzo beans if you want! (I hate chick peas, but I strangely love them in this salad!)

veggie salad

Wisconsin-raised buffalo gluten free spaghetti (extra sauce!) with Reggiano

Evolution

Sorry, Absaroka. You do not yet have opposable thumbs.

A few words from a former data-junkie

Hello, my name is Megan, and I am a recovering data junkie.

I’ve been clean now for nearly three weeks. My GPS watch has been stowed away in my suitcase since my trip to Florida, and I took the PowerTap SL+ out of my online shopping cart. My heart rate monitor is buried under eight boxes of latex tubes and hydration belts in the bike&run gear. I haven’t opened the 2010_training_log.xls file in at least fourteen days, three hours, and twenty-six minutes. And I am ok with that.

You see, I’ve been a little down and out. I have been feeling slow. Sluggish. Unfit. Whenever I head out for hill repeats, I feel like I left my legs at the bottom. I felt like I was pulling 8s when my minutes per mile were really 9’s. Every time I’d look at the instantaneous pace screen on my Garmin, I wanted to cry. Why was I going so slow and felt like it was so hard?  My energy has been low and, well, I’ve just not been having that much fun. So I unintentionally forgot my Garmin on a run. and then I forgot it again. I just ran by feel. I ran with friends. I asked them to slow down. They complied. I ran an LT with Baberaham and fell off the back. Instead of pouting, I just ran in the rest of the three miles nice-and-easy.

And then I had a race: the Hancock Canal Run. 10miles of slightly rolling hills along the lakeshore. Do I wear the Garmin, or do I leave it behind? I wasn’t sure how fast I could do the ten miles. My previous best time was 1:10:14, and I ran that the first year I did the race (in 2007). I wasn’t comfortable with the thought of even coming close to that.  I didn’t even want to try. I didn’t want to be disappointed, and I wasn’t sure I could do it. Not with the way I’ve been performing in my training. So I left the watch uncharged. Blank. Dead. And I brought along my new Timex watch.

No instantaneous pace. No beeps every mile. I just hit the lap button when I crossed the mile markers, and would hear the beeps of other peoples’ watches as I passed them. Steady, steady, mile after mile, my pace stayed the same, and it was ahead of the pace I needed to match in order to PR.

Don’t worry about that, I told myself. Run by feel.

Does this feel comfortable? I’d ask myself. Yes? Yes! Ok, well, stay steady.

Steady, steady, 6:50 after 6:50. I held the pace through mile 5. Mile 6. Mile 7. Mile 8. I stopped looking at the watch in the last two miles, running by feel and listening to my body. Does it hurt? Ok, now is the time to make it start hurting.

I crossed the line in 1:09:14. Nearly a minute faster than my previous best. Faster than previous years where I was doing focused run training.

Maybe I’m being a little dramatic. I don’t think I am nearly as data-junktified as a lot of other triathletes. But I am learning about the pleasure, and the benefit, of disconnecting. I don’t have a coach, so I don’t need to send anyone my power data. I don’t train with my heart rate monitor because, well, I don’t listen to it anyway. I am excited for the return to the rudimentary lap watch of the 20th century.

Don’t get me wrong, the GPS watch will come out for my long runs and hilly adventures. I like knowing how far I’m going before I need to turn around. Plus, it’s always nice to plot the map afterwards!

P.S.- I also don’t have a blackberry, an iPhone, or any sort of smart accessory. and I don’t really want one. I saw this article posted last Thursday on the competitor site regarding triathlete specific iPhone apps. Really? ROFLCOPTER. Not. that. connected.